MotoGP 2 Review (Xbox)

I was a late buyer of Moto GP for Xbox. I started hunting around for it after I played the demo when I got Xbox Live back in March of this year. The biggest mistake I made was waiting that long to play Moto GP. It was at the time on of the best console racing game period and easily the best online racer. Sure only 16 riders could play online, but having 16 egos flying around the track with you at the same time was more fun than bombarding your little brother with water balloons, as even after so many times playing the game I still kept coming back for more. That was until THQ released Moto GP 2. Few days after the release I went out and picked up my copy.

I know so little about motorcycle racing that the first installment of Moto GP was a learning process from the get go. I still race like an amateur even now, but I have just recently learned to overcome the shortcomings of my knowledge and make the cycle work the only way I know how on the track with considerable success. Even with my odd sense of racing I was fairly decent then. Now however is a completely different story. If you found Moto GP a little too easy, then you are in for a treat, but even the novice racer like I was a few months ago can still get up run, and my the time you've completed some of the challenges and events you will be more than on your way to being a competitive cycle racer on or offline.

When you first start Moto GP 2 you are asked to create a profile to use in the standard modes of play. Once a profile has been created you are able to choose from the following single player modes: Single Race using any of the currently unlocked tracks. Time Trials, which has you trying to beat your best time on any of the available unlocked tracks. Once a lap has been completed you will than have your best lap during the session competing against you via a ghost rider. Stunt Mode is the last of the quick play single player modes. Stunt Mode has you trying to achieve the perfect lap as fast as possible while giving you points for not only staying on the track, but also for things like burnouts, power slides, wheelies, passing other racers, and for finishing in first place, as well as others. At the end of the race your points are totaled and depending on the amount of points you receive you may unlock a track or even one of the locked AI riders.

The last of the single player modes is probably the most important as well as the best overall mode for the long-term player, and that is Career Mode. Career Mode starts off by having you create a rider, choose a cycle model, pick or create a logo (check out our racing forum here at Operation Sports for some excellent user creations as well as links to others), choose you leathers (which are customizable as well), then pick the nationality you want to race under and then finally the number you want plastered on your bike. Once you have finished creating your cycle you then get your first look at how your racer develops throughout your career by seeing four development categories; Cornering, Braking, Top Speed, and Acceleration. To get you started you are given 18 points right off the bat to distribute. It will be a long and difficult road though to get your racer to the maximum of 175 points. Along the way you will find some tasks extremely easy, and others are going to test every last bit of patience you have, but if you manage to get all 175 points you will definitely be among the elite who have done the same, and that core group are some of the best Moto GP racers on the planet.

Achieving the maximum number of development points must be done through Career mode, and Career mode only. Once you’ve distributed your initial points you are presented with two options. One is to go to Training Mode, and the other is to go straight to your first track to compete for the Championship, which consists of racing on all 16 of the real Moto GP Series tracks. The Training Mode consists of 14 different challenges that range from initially easy to progressively harder as you go with each of them teaching you a key skill in the handling of your cycle. Completion of each of the training challenges awards you one point apiece. Doesn’t sound like much initially, but trust me every point can and will make a difference when it comes to completing some of these challenges or even to consistently compete in the Championships. There are four difficulty levels in Career Mode when the racing begins, but only three of them are initially available. Legend cannot be used until you have won a Championship series in the Championship difficulty level. Once you finish a race, depending on your finish and your level you will receive a maximum of six points (3 points for Rookie level first place finish up to the full six for Legend).

Getting this far will take tons of practice and effort, but along the way you will get from two to four training challenges (47 total among the 16 tracks) along the lines of the Training Mode that are specific to each track with these giving you more of those precious development points. The one downside of all of this is that even if you have already unlocked all the tracks in the other modes of play you still must progress through the Championship tracks one by one in order, so there is no jumping from track to track to complete all the challenges at once. You can always go back to a previous event and complete the challenges if you already have not done so, plus if you didn’t finish in first place you can re-race the event to try and get the maximum allowable development points, but this will not change your current series standings. Once a new season has been started you cannot jump ahead and attempt tracks ahead of the schedule, you can only go backwards, this is just a minor squabble I have, but I suppose this also gives you more reason to finish the challenges the first time around. One nice thing about going through the Championship mode is you do not have to stick with the three laps that it defaults to. You can set it to a lower or higher length depending on how quick you think you can take the lead or longer if you have a habit of making an occasional mistake. For those that want to try and build your rider up quick can take and run season after season of single lap races, or you can run 10 lap races if you want to really go all out.

As I said at the start of the review I have not really ever followed or even know much about the real life Moto GP series, so I cannot speak in comparisons from THQ’s title to real life. However, when it comes right down to what I think this title should sound like it gives me enough of a likeness in my own mind that this is how Moto GP cycles should sound like racing around the various tracks. Is it actually the correct sound, probably not as close as it could have been. There does seem to be some semblance of artificial sounds here, but does it really take away from the experience? Not a chance. Maybe the cycle sounds are a little to be desired, but Moto GP 2 does just as good of job as the original in making you aware of where the other riders are behind you by the excellent sound performance in this regard. I very rarely have to turn around to see where the other rider may be at because I can hear them and figure out how far and where they are behind me. If the sounds are not your cup of tea you will find you are in luck because Moto GP 2 supports customs soundtracks, so if you choose to cruise around Mugello listening to Beethoven your free to do so, I however, prefer Mudvayne while cruising around Mugello, and various other head banging musical choices, which are easily setup and can be changed with the press of a button if set up that way. To summarize the sound it may not be a great thing but it does do enough of a job to sell the fact that this is motorcycle racing, even if it may come up a little short in the realism department. The saving grace in all this is that developers are realizing that custom soundtracks are definitely the way to go to keep the finicky gamer happy, and should be almost a mandatory requirement, especially is the genre of gaming.

One word sums up the graphics. Wow. This looks even better than the original and the original did a damn good job of making these cycles look good. Details are shown very well, the rider details are downright impressive, and if you ever get to see one of these custom designs that others have created you will be simply saying, wow! The tracks and backgrounds look very good, the player assist arrows that appear help you navigate around the track with ease, and the rain effects are indeed very impressive. If you get sick of looking at the graphics in Moto GP 2 you better have your eyes examined, because you seriously have a sight problem. Not much else needs to be said about the graphics.

When you finally get your cycle out on the track you find that you are being treated to one of the best overall racing games not only on the Xbox but I would say on any of the consoles. The closest thing that comes to Moto GP 2 was Moto GP, with Ratbag’s World of Outlaws for the PS2 being a very close one as well. Before you rip my head off over the previous statement is that you need to first realize that Moto GP 2 does two things correctly. One is being an excellent simulation racer, which is where it excels. Second it also excels at being an excellent arcade type racer, however some of those interested may not like the learning curve, even as an arcade type racer, but if you are a racing fan of any kind should seriously give this a look.

Those of you that have played the original Moto GP should be able to pick up the gameplay in this one very quick and be competitive almost immediately. There are a few subtle changes in this version though that will cause you to adjust your driving style somewhat. The AI drivers react generally the same on every difficulty level; it just comes down to being a matter of how fast they are. The Rookie level they drive just as well as they do in the Legend level, but the biggest difference is in the speed in which they make their moves. You will find that if you start in the back in the Rookie level you will almost pass the entire field shortly after the start of the race. You try the same thing in Legend mode and you will be working extremely hard just to get back to the middle of the pack. All the movements of the cycles look and perform very well from the fluidness of the twists and turns to the precision of holding the cycle around a long sweeping bend while going 160mph plus. Race at zero percent simulation level (more arcade type setting) you are allowed to run a little more wild than normal. Race at 100 percent simulation level and be prepared for every single mistake to cost you time and track position but also a gives your rider a very sore ass from all the pavement and dirt he will be eating. This turns me to crashes. These look very good as well, though they can get a little frustrating as sometimes they feel like they drag on forever, but the flipside is they probably should as I highly doubt the real riders would be able to take the kind of punishment us gamers put the games riders through.

Last thing I want to touch on is if offline play doesn’t keep you interested and you have Xbox Live you better hold on to your seats. Moto GP 2 on Xbox Live can become very addicting if you let yourself get good. Racing against up to 15 other human riders is a great experience, even if you are a novice racer as that at most times you will always be able to find others that compare to your skill level. Stats are kept on every track as far as your best time and even your Stunt Mode records are kept so you can compare those as well. I currently sit about the middle of the pack compared to those that currently have the game and I on more than one occasion have been able to race against a full field of human racers and have been able to come out with a win. If you don’t want to race your personal rider, you can take any of the unlocked AI riders onto the track for a Multiplayer race. You will be able to unlock all the AI riders through the Stunt mode after obtaining so many points, as well as unlock a few other weird tidbits that affect the way the game looks and sounds.

Damn you THQ for screwing up my free time once again and making another outstanding racing title that takes my current crown of being the top online racer on a console and one of the top racers overall. Even if you don't plan to play on XBox Live I still highly recommend this title as the AI racing can be just as entertaining as the online racing is with the added difficulty of AI racers that are a lot more consistent than the online counterparts.

If you already own or have owned and enjoyed the original Moto GP game I would still highly recommend picking this one up, yes it is very similar in many ways, but enough of a change to warrant time being spent to unlock items, but also just because the online play has improved enough to eliminate the biggest problem the first series online players had and that was the backwards riders. I hope for the future that THQ and Climax can look into ways to add more riders online and make some substantial changes to create more of a new update should there be a third installment in this series.

MotoGP 2 Score
out of 10